Whether you are a homesteader, real food lover or simply wish to harness the goodness of fermentation,Traditionally Fermented Foods: Innovative Recipes and Old-Fashioned Techniques for Sustainable Eating (Page Street Publishing, 2017) by Shannon Stonger provides the building blocks to confidently ferment your own food and can provide your family with nutritious meals while decreasing food costs. Stonger holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, is the founder of Nourishing Days and a writer for Cultures for Health. The following excerpt is from chapter 3 “Grains.”
This recipe is wholesome and simple enough to be your daily bread. After an overnight bulk ferment, it gets a couple of hours before being baked. My favorite part of this loaf is its keeping quality and how well it slices up for toast.
• 1-3/4 cups (414 ml) water
• 3/4 cup (177 ml) gluten-free sourdough starter (see below)
• 2 tbsp (30 ml) honey
• 2 tbsp (30 ml) oil
• 3 tbsp (24 g) ground flaxseed
• 2-1/2 tbsp (20 g) ground psyllium husk
• 2 tbsp (16 g) chia seeds
• 1 cup (120 g) teff flour
• 3/4 cup (94 g) tapioca flour
• 1/2 cup (64 g) sorghum flour
• 1/2 cup (60 g) millet flour
• 2 tsp (10 g) sea salt
1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the water, starter, honey and oil. In a separate bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and mix with a wooden spoon or clean hands for approximately 3 minutes. At this point, the dough will still be quite moist.
2. Cover and allow to bulk ferment for 8 to 12 hours or overnight.
3. Grease a baking sheet and uncover the dough. Knead the dough a few times and shape it into a large boule. Place on the prepared baking sheet and cover lightly with a damp towel. Allow to rise 1.5 to 2 hours, until puffed up slightly. During the last half hour of rise time, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Once it is risen, place the bread in the oven and bake for 55 to 65 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before moving to a cooling rack. Let the loaf cool completely before slicing.
How to Make a Sourdough Starter
Great bread, whether wheat or gluten-free, is made with simple ingredients, as is the sourdough starter from whence it is leavened. A simple slurry of flour and water come together to create a matrix for the bacteria, yeasts, enzymes and acids that will, quite literally, bring your bread to new heights.
Making a sourdough starter is a process, much like reaching the sweet spot for kimchi or kraut. I find that about a week, give or take, is all you need to create a sourdough starter that could last you a lifetime, if cared for properly. On the flipside, if all you want to do is a one-off sourdough bake, give yourself a week of daily starter care and you’ll have the bread you were looking for.
A quick note on flour choice: Unbleached all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, spelt flour and rye flour can all be used to make a starter for leavening wheat breads. Use the same guidelines for creating a gluten-free sourdough starter, but substitute teff, sorghum or buckwheat flour; other gluten-free flours are generally too starchy to create a good starter.
This week-long timeline will guide you through creating the gluten-free or wheat starter needed for baking.
Days One through Three: In a quart (1-L) jar, combine 1/2 cup (62 g) of flour and a scant 1/2 cup (118 ml) of water. Mix vigorously to incorporate air. Cover with a clean cloth, paper towel or coffee filter and secure with a rubber band or canning ring. Leave at room temperature (65 to 85 degrees) for 12 hours. Repeat feedings with the same amounts of flour and water every 12 hours.
During this period, tiny bubbles may begin to form. The starter may start to smell really funky or just pleasantly sour. Either case is okay — simply forge ahead. By the third day, you may see a bit more yeast activity, indicated by bubbles and a larger volume of starter noticeable several hours after feeding.
Days Four through Seven: For a wheat sourdough starter, begin feeding every 24 hours and discard half of the starter before every feeding. For a gluten-free sourdough starter, continue to feed every 12 hours and discard half of the starter before every feeding.
You will now begin to see more yeast activity. Your starter may start to double in volume four to eight hours after feeding it. It should begin to take on yeast aromas in addition to the sour aroma it should already have. The microorganisms are beginning to find a balance between yeasts and bacteria, and we want to continue encouraging yeast growth by continuing to feed it on a daily basis. If it begins to show funky-colored molds on top, or if it smells really bad (think rotten vegetable matter), you’ll want to throw it out and start over. This happens pretty rarely, but you’ll know it when you see it.
At about the six- to seven-day mark, your starter should indicate signs of being ready to leaven breads. Look for active, bubbly, doubling starter with a pleasant sourdough aroma. At this point you can (and should!) bake with it, feed it again and then continue with the maintenance path of your choosing.
Reprinted with permission from Traditionally Fermented Foods by Shannon Stonger, Page Street Publishing Co. 2017. Photo credit: Shannon Stonger